August 20, 2015 clojure racket vim

Vim Sexp Cheat Sheet

There are two fantastic Vim plugins that make editing parentheses-heavy Lisp code (e.g., Racket or Clojure) a delight. I don’t know I lived without making much use of these for years: parentheses can be terribly unwieldy.

Install them both now if you haven’t already! And read on for the cheat sheet that makes wrangling parentheses a walk in the park.

Emacs users know that what appear to be a preponderance of brackets are really hooks the editor may use to effortlessly transform the text before them. — guns (author of vim-sexp)

SRP has a short README that describes all of its mappings, and it gets you most of the way to bliss. But there are a few from Sexp that are still very handy. Unlike SRP, Sexp has a lot of documentation, in both its README and vimdoc. This guide puts together the docs from both projects into a short, memorizable cheat sheet, choosing what I feel are the simplest/best set. These mostly avoid the troublesome Alt/Meta, leader (which tpope doesn’t like much), and visual selection (sometimes a crutch). Where <leader> is still needed, I’ve just marked , (my leader) for brevity.

# Movement
()      move cursor to matching paren (same as % but easier) _[SEXP]_
[[ ]]   move cursor to top-level element _[SEXP]_
W B E   move cursor element/form-wise
# Indent
==      indent form  _[SEXP]_
=-      indent top level _[SEXP]_
=<movement>  indent whatever
# Move elements/forms around
>e <e     move element right/left
>f <f     move form right/left
<m- j h>  move elt left/right _[SEXP nice/fast alternative]_
<m- k l>  move elt left/right _[SEXP nice/fast alternative]_
# Slurpage and barfage
<( >)       slurp (push paren out wider)
>( <)       barf  (pull paren in narrower)
<m-s- H L>  slurp _[SEXP alternative]_
<m-s- K J>  barf  _[SEXP alternative]_
# Insertion, some with new parens
cse)     add surround form (seems weird, yse) also works)
>I <I    insert front/end
,i ,I    insert front/end, add surround form _[SEXP]_
,w ,W    insert front/end, add surround element _[SEXP]_
# Deletion
dsf      delete form (splice ,@)
daf dif  delete around/in form (,o)

Note that SRP builds off of another of tpope’s concepts: Surround. That’s a good one to install and learn for any type of editing.

I struggled with these for many hours. The slurp and barf are especially hard to get your head around, so be patient. Get a simple function to experiment with, and add some extra spacing to make forms/elements stand apart. Then try out every mapping listed above.

You probably also want to install Repeat.


  • inline comments can get in the way

  • undo is funky since some commands do multiple things